How to grow grapes from cuttings in 8 steps plus pruning and care

The process of growing grapes from cuttings, also known as propagating grapes, is performed by simply taking dormant grape cuttings and planting them to give life to a new plant. Grapes can be grown from cuttings using several different propagating methods and such. Here are 8 steps on how to grow grapes from cuttings.

How do I grow grapes from cuttings? There are several ways you can grow grapes from cuttings however, the easiest and most affordable way of growing grapes is by using hardwood cuttings. Generally, the cuttings should come from the dormant leftovers of last year’s harvest, any remaining vine wood.

The best cuttings are those cut from the high-quality vines that produced the best harvest from the previous year. If you don’t any cuttings readily available, you can always purchase them from a local vineyard, gardening supply retailer, or online. 

You should have in mind what type of grape you would like to grow before selecting the best cutting method. 

Types of Cuttings

There are many different types of cuttings to choose from for growing grapes properly. 

For each type of cutting, there are certain types of grapes that can only be grown using that cutting method. In addition to propagating grapes from general vine cuttings, there are also methods of growing grapes by grafting and layering that to some extent, involve using vine cuttings.

For now, though, we’ll focus on how to grow grapes specifically by using a certain type of cutting.

Here are the types of cuttings you can use to grow grapes:

  • Hardwood or dormant cuttings—these cuttings are most popular because of their ease and affordability. Hardwood or dormant cuttings get their name from the vine they are cut from, dormant wood that has been cut off from the previous fall or winter season.  
  • Greenwood cuttings—these cuttings are from actively growing vines and well-suited for more experienced planters because of their lower reliability when it comes to retaining moisture. 

Additionally, greenwood cuttings are usually used in place of dormant cuttings when the grapes are having difficulty rooting or you wish to grow a specific type of grape. Greenwood cuttings are preferred over dormant cuttings by some because they have the ability to grow a vast number of grapes within a shorter time period. 

Preparing Your Vines For Cutting

In order to ensure you get the best results from your cuttings, you should prune the previous year’s vines during the dormant growing season, typically between the time that the vines begin to lose their leaves and around early spring when buds start to appear. Waiting too long can affect the new growth and weaken the grapevine.

Pruning the vines involves cutting them back once they have become dormant and stopped growing as well as removing any dead or damaged growth. Pruned vines should also be clean and free of any buds or stems. 

This process is extremely important, as vines that haven’t been properly pruned can attract bugs and potentially ruin the quality and growth of the new grapes. 

“Grapes should be pruned during their dormancy, usually in late winter. When it comes to pruning grapes, the most common mistake people make is not pruning hard enough. Light pruning doesn’t demote adequate fruiting whereas heavy pruning provides the greatest quality of grapes. 

Source: How and When To Prune a Grapevine

Think of pruning vines as starting with a clean slate, free of any blemishes or extra baggage. By starting with a pruned vine, you are giving your plants a better chance at growth and good quality.

Methods of Pruning

There are several methods of properly pruning a grapevine however, no particular method is strictly better than the other. The methods more or less differ in what specific type of grape they are better suited for growing.

For a beginner planter, this may not sound familiar, so let’s break it down:

  • Buds—these are the flowers that have not yet bloomed but are in the beginning stages of the blooming process. Shoots originate from these buds once the temperature rises and the growing season begins.  
  • Shoots—this is the part of the grapevine, the shoot, is the main area from which all growth originates. The stem, tendrils fruit, and leaves all make up the shoot of the grapevine. The tendrils are those curly branch-like structures that wrap around the supporting structure for the plant. 
  • Canes—these are mature shoots that have lost all of their leaves and resemble that of an actual wood cane, hence where they get their name from. This is the most centralized part of the grapevine in the pruning process as pruning a cane will revolve around the total dormant bud count maintained. 
  • Spurs—spurs are canes that have been pruned to only consist of one to three or four buds.

The best canes, those of a good size and quality, should be chosen for producing the best cuttings. If the vines you have chosen for cutting all contain the same canes of like quality and size, keep the remaining amount of buds on each the same. 

If the canes from last year’s vines are smaller and have too many buds, more than three or four, cut some of them off. The opposite goes for canes of larger size, allow more than what was there previously during the last growing season. 

The two most common methods of pruning are spur and cane however, vines can also be pruned using the Kniffen method. 

Spur Pruning

Spur pruning is performed by simply spur-pruning the whole vine or better yet cutting all the way back to the spurs on the vine. Spurs are the little arms that grow from the short branches of the vine and are located along the vine. 

In order to prune a grapevine using this method, one would simply cut short the canes to reveal the spurs. 

Vines that have the best quality canes with buds should be selected for spur pruning. Once you decide how many buds should be on the vine, cut the canes back enough that 2 spurs remain. Any remaining wood growths should then be removed and the vine can be tied to whatever support you are using to grow your grapes. 

Spur-pruning is best suited for growing French hybrid grapes, grapes from France that are the cross-breed of European and American variety grapes and more fruitful. 

Kniffen Pruning

The Kniffen method or system is the most popular method of pruning grapes and is particularly best suited for beginner grape growers. In order to best execute the Kniffen method of pruning, you must be very precise and meticulous while pruning the vine. If you make any mistakes however, it is easier to recover than by other pruning methods.  

“The easiest way to prune grape varieties that don’t require winter protection is by using the four-arm Kniffen method. This method involves using two horizontal wires to support the vine, rather than one. The bottom one is usually about 3 feet from the ground while the other about 5 feet.”

Source: How and When To Prune a Grapevine

To perform the Kniffen method, you should prune the cane of the vine to about two high-quality buds right after you plant it. After doing so, you should allow the vine to grow untouched for the remainder of the growing season. If any canes begin to grow taller than the support structure for the vine, tie them to the structure using wires or string. 

You should then cut the vine down until it’s about 4 inches above the topmost wire during the start of the next year. Any extra buds or shoots should be removed during this time as well. During the third year, a total of the four best canes should be pruned to only have each a remaining 10 buds. 

Lastly, tie the chosen canes to their appropriate wire and remove all but two buds and one spur and tie them securely to the support structure. Any canes that previously provided grapes should be removed and the method shall once again be repeated once you reselect new canes and cut them back to only include 10 buds.

Cane Pruning

Cane pruning is when a grapevine has been cut down to only one or more canes. About more than half of last year’s or furthers growth should be cut back. These canes will then grow shoots from the main trunk. 

Although it is not required, it is recommended that your train your shoots to grow horizontally along the trellis or support structure wires you are using to secure your vines. 

The two best canes growing from the trunk should be used for this pruning method and should also contain quality buds. These should then be tied up as well with one extra spur that has two to three buds already. The spur will be the host of the next growing season’s harvest.

Cane pruning is best suited for growing American variety grapes such as Concord and Catawba. 

“Cane pruning has the advantage of offering better frost protection than spur pruning. That makes cane pruning better suited for cold climates or for vines that are being grown in regions that are on the cold end of their preferred range. Can pruning, however, requires an experienced eye.”

Source: Cane & Spur Pruning of Grapevines

Growing Grapes From Cuttings

The same steps generally apply to growing grapes from cuttings regardless of which type you are using. The only difference is the type of vine from which the cuttings came from and their length, as well as when you wish season you wish to plant your grapevines.

1. Select A Vine or Vines To Propagate

Choose vines that you have readily available from the previous year’s growth or locally from a vineyard or supply retailer. Vines are best chosen during or before the harvesting season. Only vines that have been mature for at least one year should be chosen in order to ensure they are strong and healthy enough to grow fruit. 

If you plan on using hardwood cuttings, select a dormant vine that can or has already been pruned during the fall or winter seasons. The same goes for greenwood cuttings except that the vine you plan on creating cuttings from should currently be active in growth. For this reason, they must be chosen during the growing season. 

It’s also important to note which type of grape you plan on growing before select the appropriate cuttings. Remember also that vines that have cane pruned are best suited for growing American variety grapes and spur-pruned for growing French hybrid varieties.

There is no specific variety of grape best suited from being grown from hardwood cuttings, however, Muscadine and Pigeon grapes can only grow from greenwood cuttings. The climate of the location you plan to grow the grapes from matters as well. 

Each variety of grapes differs in taste, size, and texture so be sure to identify your preferred variety of grape.

2. Create Cuttings From The Pruned Vines

Once you have chosen the appropriate pruned vines, it’s time to create the cuttings that will be used to propagate your grapes. The length of the cuttings will once again depend on whether they are hardwood or greenwood, and a little bit of preference if you’re more of an experienced grower. 

Hardwood cuttings should come from a pruned dormant vine and measure approximately 12 to 18 inches in length. They must also be stored in a cool place before until they are ready to be planted. The pruned vine should have a thickness of a regular #2 pencil and should contain about three to four buds each. 

Cut each vine just below the bottommost bud.

Greenwood cuttings should measure approximately 4 to 5 inches, 6 the maximum, in length. They to should have the same thickness or diameter of a #2 pencil. All of the cuttings should be pruned except for the topmost leaf on each one. 

“Cut off a portion of the leaf, so that only about 1.5 inches of leaf area remains on each cutting. This minimizes the loss of moisture through evaporation while the roots are forming.”

Source: How To Propagate Grape Vines From Green Cuttings

In order to distinguish the top of a cutting from the bottom, cut the top on a diagonal slant and the bottom on a straight so that you won’t be confused once it’s time to plant them. Also, if you intend on growing more than one variety of grape, make sure you label as well so that there isn’t any confusion in the future.

3. Storing The Cuttings

If the temperature is not appropriate yet for planting, the cuttings must be stored properly until it is warm enough outside. Once again, all cuttings should be stored in a cool, moist area slightly above freezing while waiting to be planted. 

They must also be moistened during the entirety of their storing either with moist wood shavings or peat moss. Once moistened enough, you can store them in either a large refrigerator, cooler, or any other cool, moist medium. 

4. Soak The Cuttings

Hardwood cuttings can either be soaked in water or a rooting hormone or calloused. The cuttings can be calloused being stored in a warm and moist area for a while until the area from which the cutting took place begins to heal and produce a base more suitable for developing strong roots. 

The cutting should be soaked for three consecutive days.

Greenwood cuttings can be soaked using a combination of water and rooting hormones. 

It’s important that the cuttings retain adequate moisture during the planting process therefore, soaking is extremely important for successfully growing a healthy harvest of grapes. Both types of cuttings can also be dipped once again in the rooting hormone just before being planted. Only the cut end is dipped. This, however, is not necessary.

If your cuttings have been stored for quite some time in a cool, moist environment, prior to soaking, make sure they are immediately placed in a soaking agent once they have been removed from storage. 

5. Plant The Cuttings

The proper climate for planting your cuttings is during the spring season or when the temperature begins to get warmer, preferably above 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the cuttings have been soaked for a good amount of time, they are ready to be planted. You can either plant your cuttings directly into the ground or in a garden bed or similar propagating medium. 

For best results, however, plant your cuttings into a pot before transferring them outdoors in order to ensure that their roots develop adequately. Doing so will speed up the rooting process overall.

Regardless of where you plan on planting your cuttings, it’s important to have a proper source of soil with the right conditions for supporting your plants. Moist soil that has a grainy or slightly rocky consistency is the best as well as one that has a pH level of 7 or slightly higher. Be sure that whatever soil you use is not over-fertilized.   

“Depending on the species of grapes you are planting, spacing will be different for each plant. For American and European grapes, plant each vine 6-10 feet (1.8-3.0 m) apart. Muscadines require much more space, and should be planted approximately 16 feet (4.9 m) apart.”

Source: How To Grow Grape Vines

Cuttings should be planted about 2 to 3 inches deep into the soil or until about half is above and the other half is below the surface of the soil. Be sure to about 4 to 8 inches in between each cutting if you are planting them in a pot first.

6. Prepare A Trellis Or Support Structure For Your Plants

This step can be done either before or after you plant your cuttings, but mostly depends on where you first plant them. If you chose to plant your cuttings indoors before transferring them outdoors, you should start making plans for your structure soon after or at least before the growing season starts. 

If you’re planting your cuttings outdoors, you should already have a suitable structure in place beforehand. Overall, it doesn’t particularly matter when you prepare your supporting structure as long as it’s in place before the start of the growing season.

There are several structures you can use to support your cuttings once they start growing:

  • Trellis—a structure made up of intertwined wooden or metal boards that are suitable for supporting vines as they climb or wrap around them.
  • Fence—any type of fence is appropriate for supporting grapevines as long as it is sturdy.
  • Lattice wood—this can be used freehandedly as a single strip of lattice wood or through any other support structure made from it. Lattice wood is a frame made of crisscrossed strips of wood. 
  • Wire—wire can be used in addition to a trellis or fence to hold the vines onto the structure properly while still allowing them to properly grow and wrap around.
  • Stakes—if you use takes as support for your grapevines, make sure you use more than one to support the weight of them. 

7. Tend To Your Plants

Grapevines or plants don’t require much water compared to other produce plants. Once you water them after planting them, you only need to water them occasionally anytime afterward. Water should be directed at the roots so that they properly absorb and retain the water. 

Also, make sure that your soil system allows proper drainage so that the roots are not drowned. This can be done by making small holes through the surface of the soil and into where the roots have begun to develop. You can also create a drip system if it doesn’t rain a lot where you are. 

Weeding and pruning may also be needed in order to maintain your growing vines. You should prune your grapevines on a rolling basis during the first year, as to not allow any growing fruits to weigh them down and damage them. 

Once the vines have matured further along over the years it may not be necessary to prune them as much however they should always be pruned when dormant. Be sure to also watch out for any unsolicited matter such as mold and mildew, insects, and weeds that may damage the vines.

If needed, pest control can be used to keep insects and other predators away from your plants. 

8. Harvest When Appropriate

It takes a while to grow fully mature grapevines that will produce high-quality grapes. The process of growing grapes as a whole requires much time, dedication, and patience. Harvesting the grapes too early can ruin them, as doing so will completely halt the ripening process. 

“Strong, edible fruit likely won’t appear for anywhere from 1-3 years. When it appears, test its ripeness by picking a few grapes from different areas and tasting them. If the grapes are sweet, start picking as they are ready for harvesting and eating.”

Source: How To Grow Grape Vines

The taste is primarily the factor by which harvest readiness is determined, not color and size, although they can be to a certain extent. Birds near or on the grapevines are also good indicators of ripeness. The sweeter the grape, the riper it is, so keep in mind how sweet or bitter you would like your grapes and harvest them accordingly. 

The type of grape also has an influence on when it should be harvested. 

“Grapes that are intended for raisins, such as ‘Thompson Seedless,’ should be left on the vine somewhat longer than wine or table varieties in order to increase the sugar content. Grapes to be used for jelly can be picked before they are fully ripe.”

Source: How To Know When To Harvest Grapes

Additional Tips For Growing The Best Grapes

Planting grapes from cuttings require much careful planning and time. The process of growing grapes is not exactly difficult, however, the detail and time needed can be hard from some novice growers. 

To ensure that you get the best results, create a detailed plan and layout for how you wish to grow your grapes. This can be best executed by first deciding the variety of grapes you would like to grow, which will then help you to determine which type of cutting they should be grown from.

The next steps will then involve choosing vines that have already been cut and pruned or vines that you have leftover from your previous growing season. You should also determine the best pruning method for your cuttings and then prepare them for planting. 

Also, take time in planning how you will choose to plant your cuttings, either indoors first or outdoors. 

Remember, during the initial year of planting, it’s highly unlikely that you will be able to harvest anything, even if your grapevines do start growing mature grapes. If last year’s or the previous year’s growth did not produce the harvest you were hoping for perhaps take your growing method back to the drawing board.

Recent Posts